Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History is home to some of the world’s most treasured artifacts — mummies, rare gemstones, the taxidermied corpses of a pair of man-eating lions — and now, one huge, gender-neutral dinosaur skeleton.
According to Arc Digital, “Sue,” Field Museum’s Tyrannosaurus Rex — one of the most complete and largest T-Rex skeletons ever discovered — is working on becoming a “gender neutral” icon by adopting gender-neutral pronouns in her new private exhibit on the museum’s second floor.
Sue is not, in fact, gender neutral or gender fluid. The T-Rex skeleton, discovered in South Dakota in the 1990s, was either male or female. The scientists who discovered Sue believed the skeleton belonged to a female because female T-Rexes are larger than male T-Rexes, and Sue was one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever found; she’s named “Sue” after Susan Hendrickson, who led the team that unearthed her.
But back in March 2017, Arc Digital reports, the museum decided to have a little fun, and in response to a question lobbed during a Twitter Q&A, Sue claimed that she was “gender neutral” because her sex was unknown, and that she preferred the pronouns they/their/them.
By May 2017, though, Sue, who had graced the museum’s central rotunda for more than a decade, was due to move upstairs to make room for an even larger dinosaur skeleton, and when constructing her pernament home in the museum’s dinosaur exhibit, museum officials adopted Sue’s social media gender-neutral tendencies and made them official.
“In her new suite, some of the signage describing the fossil has adopted non-binary pronouns,” Arc Digital says. “One sign does make the distinction between SUE the museum ambassador/Twitter star and the fossil itself, noting that the fossil is properly referred to as ‘it.’ But some of the rest of the signage uses ‘their’ pronouns and seems more interested in teaching museum-goers about the trendy movement for acceptance of non-binary identity than it does about paleontology.”
In an interview with Them magazine, museum officials point out that docents and volunteers are asked to refer to Sue by her gender neutral pronouns, and that in Sue’s online presence — mostly on Twitter — she is a “gender-neutral” persona.
In the grand scheme, one gender-neutral dinosaur probably isn’t going to make much difference in how sex and gender are viewed by modern society, and the museum argues that the imaginary Sue the Dinosaur is entirely separate from the massive skeleton that serves as an example of T-Rex in the museum’s gallery. But it is a little weird that it would matter — or that a reputable scientific establishment would dabble in trendy, unscientific gender theory.
Plus, it’s not as though Sue doesn’t have a gender. The museum just can’t predict and confirm the dinosaur’s sex with any test currently in use. The only gender confirmation system available for Sue is to test whether or not she was carrying eggs at the time of her death. She was not, but that doesn’t conclusively rule out that Sue was a female, just that she wasn’t currently fertile when she passed on.